Meek and Missional

In the same way we face these temptations. Some of us might be more prone to secure our identity as Christians by contrasting ourselves against “sinners.” We work so hard to build the pretense of being “set apart.” Others of us are more drawn to conveniently reinterpreting Scripture to justify choices that are contrary to God’s best intentions. Even when our own intentions for doing so are noble—like allowing moral compromise in our lives for the sake of credibility among those we are seeking to reach for the kingdom. The point is that, like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, these woes are very much relevant to the church today. (As an interesting aside, it is not uncommon to see those who fall into these two expressions of failure be at odds with one another and gain a degree of identity by refuting and/or repudiating the other).

This would be bad enough if it only impacted those who were guilty of these failings. Jesus warns, however, that such behaviour is our living witness before a watching world. The consequences of our own compromises have direct and significant impact on others, both in the Church and outside of it. The persistent individualism of our culture deceives us into thinking that our choices are purely our own, when in truth nothing we do is done in isolation. This is a dire warning with critical consequences at stake. We would do well to pay very close attention to it.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15

Compare this next woe with the next Beatitude:

“Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

The parallel here is explicit. In both texts the theme is God’s people going into the world. The Pharisees and teachers of the law go into the world seeking to subjugate the nations under the law. After all they come as God’s very own Chosen People whose covenant promised them all nations.  Yet Jesus promises us that the meek- not the elite—will inherit the covenant promises. And what is meekness? Meekness is the appropriate humility that comes from recognizing and repenting (mourning) our poorness of spirit (our sin). For the realization of our poverty of spirit brings us to a genuine repentance and mourning before God. As we repent of our sinfulness and acknowledge our dependence on God, only then can we truly submit ourselves in genuine humility to obediently live as he teaches us. It is not that we seek to be meek in order to earn the reward of the inheritance, but rather that we are truly blessed because such humble obedience is only possible through Christ by his Spirit for the glory of the Father. In other words, without Christ, we have no hope of being meek or coming into the covenant promises.

Again, Jesus is subverting the expectation of the people who believe that the Messiah would bring their liberation through a show of superior power, humbling the enemy by a righteousness proven by God-given force. That Jesus called the Jews (and us) to humble obedience was/is not controversial. That he made the covenant promises contingent on such humility was/is startlingly counter-intuitive (especially when we consider that Jesus frames these truth as all-encompassing—spiritually, socially, economically, politically, etc.). However, our meekness is also our confidence—not in ourselves, but in the God who forgives and justifies us. With this understanding in mind, imagine what a “meek missional community” might look like. Jesus’ warnings in these verses are also an invitation to become that very people.